Published on May 1, 2016 in the Singapore American Newspaper:
Global warming has been in the headlines for the past few years, along with concerns over the pollution and waste management issues that have followed the mass migration to cities. While solutions to the major problems ultimately lie with government policy and corporate action, there are ways that individuals can contribute through the choices they make every day. Here are a few low-impact lifestyle hacks to help you leave a gentler impact on the environment:
Watch Your Water and Air. The recycling of waste water is taken very seriously by the Singapore government, as seen in the Water Conservation Tax. This is aimed at households with heavy water usage, which are billed at a higher rate as a reminder to be mindful. Shorter showers not only mean you’ll save the environment, but a bit of cash as well.
Going without air conditioning in the tropics is likely too much to ask, but many air conditioners feature a “Dehumidify” setting that reduces the humidity in a room, cooling it without the energy output of more traditional air conditioning settings.
Make Your Wants Known. One major action you can take is to limit your use of plastic bags and opt for a reusable bag instead. Cashiers at supermarkets and bakeries often default to using more plastic bags than strictly necessary, so don’t be afraid to ask them to use less when bagging your groceries or wrapping up your croissant.
Many restaurants and hawker stalls use non-reusable Styrofoam or plastic containers to pack food for take-away. If you’re planning to sit down and eat, be sure to let the stall you’re ordering from know so that they can provide you with washable cutlery instead. Otherwise, you may receive an excessive bundle of packaging, such as the placing of a drink in a plastic cup inside a plastic bag.
Manage Food Waste. According to government statistics, Singapore generated 788,600 tons of food waste in 2014. Convert some of that waste by composting, even if you don’t have a backyard or garden. Compost is perfect for keeping potted plants healthy and even a small compost bin can reduce waste. Head to ZeroWasteSG.com for advice on how to compost, recycle and reuse tips and much, much more.
Pay It Forward. Instead of throwing away old clothes or knickknacks, give them a chance at a second life and donate. Charities like the Salvation Army, Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) and TOUCH Ubi Hostel run collection centers for used items to stock their thrift stores. Additionally, international clothing store H&M offers discount coupons in exchange for bags of used garments. Keep an eye out for the white and green bins in their stores. Meanwhile, initiatives like Singapore Freecycle Network and Pass-It-On aim to make giving away unwanted items easier than ever.